Meat and poultry

Slow-roasted duck legs

duck legs

I enjoy making – and eating – a proper French confit de canard. Maybe I’ll even blog about it someday. These slow-roasted duck legs are a sort of faux version. They are lighter than the real thing, but still very rich and satisfying. They are less time-consuming to prepare, though still not exactly fast food. I often make them in winter as a mid-week treat for my family, but I also served some last week on a lovely spring evening with just a fresh green salad on the side.

Whatever you do, make sure to save the vast quantities of rendered fat you will drain off during the cooking. You can use the rendered fat for all kinds of roasting and frying. My favorite use is for roasting chicken – simply rub a tablespoon or two of rendered duck fat all over the bird, sprinkle with sea salt, and be prepared for an amazingly moist roast chicken with fantastically crispy skin.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First try these lovely slow-roasted duck legs.

Slow-roasted duck legs (adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 duck leg per person

sea salt

Take the duck legs out of the refrigerator and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Using a sharp knife, skewer or scissors, pierce the skin of each leg all over, in at least 10-12 places. (This will help the fat to render and will make the skin crispy.) Sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Leave the legs to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Without preheating the oven, put the roasting tin in the oven. Put the heat on to 150C°/300°F/gas mark 2 and cook for 2 and 1/2 hours. Drain the rendered fat into a bowl every 30 minutes or so.

Then increase the heat to 190C°/375°F/gas mark 5 and cook for another 20 minutes or until the skin is fully crispy.

Serve immediately. Any leftovers are nice shredded and added to a salad. Refrigerate the rendered fat and use within a week to cook vegetables or roast chicken.


Dessert

Banana cake

cake

To polish off our month of birthday celebrations, by popular request I baked a banana cake. This is the close cousin of the banana bread I posted about a few months ago, but somehow a loaf cake does not seem as festive as a round one. Actually I think frosting would make it even more festive, but strangely enough none of my children like frosting!

It’s been a dessert-heavy few weeks here on the blog so I’m looking forward to moving on to some lighter fare as summer approaches. That said, this cake makes a lovely summer dessert served with some fresh mixed berries or a scoop of sorbet.

Gluten and dairy free banana cake (adapted from a Tom Kitchin article in The Scotsman)

4 medium bananas, peeled – about 300g

200g caster sugar

6 large eggs

200g ground almonds

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

Makes 8 proper servings

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

On a plate or cutting board, mash up the bananas into chunks using a fork. Scrape into a bowl and blend in the sugar until smooth. I use my handheld mixer to do this; the texture should be less chunky than for banana bread.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Pour into to the banana mixture, and mix well.

Fold the ground almonds and baking powder into the batter, then pour the batter into a 23cm springform cake pan, lined and greased (I use ghee but you could also use a bit of oil).

Bake for one hour. Cool on a rack, then remove from the tin. Serve on its own or with some fresh raspberries. This cake tastes just as good the day after you bake it.

Dips and spreads

Cashew butter

plate

In today’s nut-free schools, it is hard to imagine there was a time when PB&J was the staple of most children’s lunchboxes. It certainly was when I was growing up in 1970s America.

Of course many children big and small still enjoy peanut butter at home. Provided the brand you buy does not contain loads of sugar, salt, hydrogenated oils and other added nasties, peanut butter can definitely be part of a healthy diet. But if you or your child like peanut butter, why not try some other nut butters for variety? All nuts are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but beyond that each nut has it own nutritional profile. Peanuts are a good source of vitamin E (important for cell membranes), but the cashews I’ve used in today’s recipe contain higher levels of magnesium, iron, zinc and selenium. It’s a great idea to eat a range of different nuts.

It’s also fun and easy to make your own nut butters with whatever nuts you like best – and not much else.

cashew

And once you’ve tasted homemade nut butter, I’d be surprised if you ever bought the stuff in the jar again.

Cashew butter

400g plain, raw cashews

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

a generous pinch of salt

Makes one 500ml jar of cashew butter

Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°/gas mark 5.

In a roasting tin, toast the cashews in the oven until golden (about 15 minutes), stirring or shaking frequently to avoid burning. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Put the cashews in the food processor and blitz while gradually adding the olive oil and salt, until the texture looks like peanut butter.

Scrape into a jar and refrigerate. The cashew butter may seem too liquid at first, but it will firm up after a few hours in the refrigerator.

Delicious on toasted (gluten free) bread, on rice cakes or on sliced fruit.

Dessert

Banana bread

blog

I had nearly given up on gluten and dairy free banana bread.

It’s not that there aren’t a lot of recipes out there. There are plenty. But they never quite worked for me – the texture was not quite right, the taste a bit off, the ingredients a bit too complicated for my liking.

Perhaps the bottom line is that I don’t like baking with Xanthan gum. I find a lot of gluten free flours a bit bitter. And I always prefer to find recipes that are “naturally” gluten and dairy free, without relying on substitution products.

When I spotted this recipe by Tom Kitchin on the internet, I knew I needed to try it immediately. Several dozen loaves and a few tweaks later, it is a firm favorite with my children. And my children’s friends. And my children’s friends’ parents.

Which might explain how the loaf I baked yesterday was reduced to crumbs within minutes, before I even managed a slice for myself.

Gluten and dairy free banana bread (adapted from a Tom Kitchin article in The Scotsman)

4 medium bananas, peeled – about 300g

200g caster sugar

6 large eggs

200g ground almonds

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

Makes 10-12 slices

Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

On a plate or cutting board, mash up the bananas into chunks using a fork. Scrape into a bowl and mix in the sugar.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Pour into to the banana mixture, and mix well.

Fold the ground almonds and baking powder into the batter, then transfer to a lined, greased loaf pan. I use a 25 cm silicone loaf pan greased with ghee (which is casein free), but you could also use a bit of sunflower oil to grease the pan.

Bake for one hour. I have no idea how long the cake can keep because it always gets devoured immediately.

Eggs

Spanish tortilla

tortillawine

This recipe will change your life.

potatoes

Vegetarian friends coming over for dinner? Spanish tortilla. Planning a picnic? Spanish tortilla. Your GFCF child is invited to a pizza party? Spanish tortilla.

All of your food dilemmas solved with just one simple recipe.

tortillacook

For a relaxed tapas feast, serve with a selection of Spanish treats such as bellota ham, olives, cherry tomatoes, grilled sardines, chorizo and pan con tomate (toasted bread – GF or regular – rubbed with garlic and tomato).

Just be sure to save some tortilla for tomorrow’s lunchboxes.

tortillabox

Spanish tortilla (adapted from 1080 Recipes by Simone Ortega)

4 large potatoes (such as baking potatoes), around 1kg total

8 large eggs

500ml sunflower oil

salt

Serves 8 or more

Peel the potatoes and slice very thinly. I use the slicing disk of the food processor to do this. A mandolin would also do the trick. Otherwise, time to show off those knife skills.

Heat the oil in a deep-sided, heavy-bottomed 26 cm skillet (or something along those lines). Don’t worry about the vast quantities of oil – most of it will be drained off later.

Carefully tip the potatoes into the hot oil and cook at medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft and very lightly browned – about 15 minutes – then drain in a colander reserving about 3 tablespoons of the oil.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy, then add the cooked potatoes and a generous pinch of salt. Stir well to combine.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of reserved oil in the skillet, then tip the egg and potato mixture back into the skillet. Cook on medium heat, running a spatula around the edges from time to time to prevent sticking, until the bottom of the tortilla is set – about five minutes. Tip the tortilla out of the skillet onto a large plate, then slide back into the skillet to cook the other side – about five more minutes. Slide or flip onto a plate when it is cooked.

Eat immediately or refrigerate and enjoy within 24 hours.